COVID-19 has presented companies across the world with unique challenges. Given the nature of the pandemic, many industries had to swiftly adapt to brand new ways of working – specifically, remote working. After an entire year of working from home, nationwide eligibility for the COVID vaccine has finally given humanity a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. But as we re-enter the office, one question remains, what role will physical spaces play in 2021?
Planning and decisions regarding your company’s physical spaces, including headquarters and office buildings, regional branches and warehouse space, are intertwined with your broader strategy and have more of a direct role in mobility planning.
While it will make sense for some companies with most employees working from home to consolidate office space and centralize operations, like Gap Inc. in San Francisco announced recently, others will see a need to move away from a large office tower and into smaller, regional branch offices with shorter commutes and more direct access to business activity centers to better achieve their goals.
Outdoor retailer REI is such an example when it changed directions on developing an 8-acre central corporate campus in Bellevue, Washington, in favor of a “headquarters that will span multiple satellites across the greater Seattle area,” according to its CEO Eric Artz.
Gap Inc. announced that Old Navy employees who now have their own corporate offices in Mission Bay, California, will be moving in with parent company Gap Inc. at its headquarters in Embarcadero.
Gap positioned its move as fostering a more agile and collaborative work environment. Its consolidation is also aligned with other corporate efforts, including store closures, to cut costs and generate growth. Financial analysts note such moves as positives for the Gap margin as it also positions itself for more online sales with plans to build a new distribution center in Longview, Texas.
Any required corporate relocation will require operational and human resource changes that can affect a company’s bottom line — and employee loyalty — for years to come.
In such cases, organizations will want to remain nimble in office relocation decisions while also coordinating such moves with human resource goals to retain top employees. Offering strong relocation benefits through custom, tiered plans, and working with global, established corporate mobility experts will help continue to build operational efficiencies amid your transition as well as company culture and employee loyalty.
In 2021, many companies are prioritizing building resilience after identifying gaps in business contingency protocols amid the pandemic. A way to stabilize benefits for employees affected by relocation is engaging with an external mobility provider with a well-established supply chain to ensure seamless transitions.
Allied Van Lines’ parent company Sirva notes that mobility trends expected this year include leaner and more agile mobility services as well as an increasingly active role for on-demand mobility services in organizational strategy and oversight.
Work from home and mobility benefits
“The productivity metric is proving that remote work is working,” says Erik Bradley, chief strategist at Enterprise Technology Research (ETR), in an article on Forbes.com. “So, we all thought that there would be some increase in permanent remote work, but we didn’t expect that to double from pre-pandemic levels.”
An ETR survey recently showed that it is expected to double, with a Gartner CFO survey noting that 74% of CFOs plan to permanently shift employees to remove work after the COVID-19 crisis ends, with Big Tech companies like Google, Uber, Zillow, Twitter and Square leading the way.
As your operations and HR teams review and adjust corporate benefits to fit the times, keep three points in mind.
Retaining top talent will continue to be a priority. With more companies embracing a flexible work from home model, highly qualified employees will have even more options to choose from to enhance their quality of life. Conduct internal research or poll current high value employees and candidates who are most critical to your company’s success for their career motivations and goals to inform any benefit adjustments.
Work from home habits and preferences are likely to outlast the pandemic. As employee demands and needs continue to evolve, 2021 will bring new virtual work policies and company benefits to accommodate new ways of working such as remote office setups, travel policies and moving benefits.
For insight into what other companies are thinking, Sirva conducts regular mobility outlook market surveys. As recently as Q4 2020, results show:
- 38% believe relocation volumes will return to pre-COVID levels in 6-18 months
- 46% are still unsure if they will allow permanent work-from-home in lieu of relocation
- 65% of executives and 42% of middle-management employees will continue to relocate
- 37% are struggling to hire local resources in the host/destination location
Nimbleness is key, as 2021 is likely to be another year of major transitions. Some analysts make the case that supporting remote work and more flexible benefits as a long-term strategy can serve as a standard for greater business resilience to any future disruptions.
Erica Volini, the global human capital leader at Deloitte, says in a recent ABC News article that in Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends report, just 15% of the 3,600 senior executives who responded felt that they were prepared for the pandemic. Those leaders also noted that the ability for their workers to adapt, learn new skills and take on new roles are top factors in their company’s ability to navigate future disruptions, even more critical than access to capital.
So as high performers continue to drive adaptability and progress, how do we support them fairly through flexibility in benefits such as mobility programs? Should companies pay for (or partially pay for) employees who want to relocate away from a corporate office for an enhanced quality of life?
HR teams for larger organizations often establish tiered benefits packages for employees based on factors including tenure, purpose for relocation (personal or business-driven), destination location and employee preference.
Sirva.com’s article on considerations in tiered mobility programs offers a way forward and examples of ways to build flexibility and fairness into corporate benefits.
There is a great deal of responsibility for leadership to ensure workplaces are safe and productive, while actively creating more positive experiences for talent. As 2021 continues to test the world’s standard for normalcy, it is up to organizations and their leaders to set the standard for reimagining adaptable workspaces.
Are you focused on preparing your company for what comes next? Get ahead and download Allied’s latest white paper, Back to the Future: 2021 Business Trends. This white paper looks at anticipated 2021 business trends, evaluating how mobility planning can help keep your company ahead of the curve in the following key areas:
- Business model innovation
- Reimagining workspaces
- Rebalancing the global-local supply chain
- Diversity, equity and inclusion